FT.com / UK / Politics & policy - Navy chief attacks Nimrod cuts Navy chief attacks Nimrod cuts By Alex Barker, Political Correspondent Published: November 9 2010 20:20 | Last updated: November 9 2010 20:20 The head of the Royal Navy has admitted he is “very uncomfortable” with the government’s plans to axe the intelligence and surveillance aircraft that protect Britain’s fleet of nuclear-armed submarines. Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope’s frank concerns over the dangers of scrapping the Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft are the first public criticisms of the defence review by a service chief. Speaking at a defence conference on Tuesday, Sir Mark said: “I am very uncomfortable at losing Nimrod. I am happy to say that publicly.” Sir Mark also defended the need for round-the-clock deterrence, as it did not make sense to move to irregular submarine patrols or operate more closely with France. His fears are understood to be shared widely within the Ministry of Defence. However, the Nimrod MR4 aircraft programme had run badly over budget and had been delayed by more than eight years, making it an obvious target for cost savings. Liam Fox, defence secretary, has said the decision was “extremely difficult” and required Britain taking a “calculated risk” with its surveillance capabilities. He starkly laid out these risks in a leaked letter to the prime minister during the strategic defence review. “Deletion of the Nimrod MR4 will limit our ability to deploy maritime forces rapidly into high-threat areas, increase the risk to the deterrent, compromise maritime CT [counter terrorism], remove long-range search and rescue and delete one element of our Falklands reinforcement plan,” Mr Fox wrote. Labour attacked the move as one element of the “shabby political fix” over Trident. “This underlines the risks that David Cameron is taking with Britain’s nuclear deterrent,” said John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness. The Ministry of Defence said ministers and service chiefs had acknowledged the decision was “difficult” but that the severe financial pressures forced the department “to prioritise those capabilities that we could maintain”. “We will continue to undertake joint maritime patrol activities with our allies and will utilise a range of other military assets to ensure the integrity of UK waters,” the spokesperson added. “Operating on a less than continuous basis makes it vulnerable – it means a potential future aggressor might judge that we were not able to respond to a pre-emptive attack,” it said.